The tingliness. The spaced out feeling. Talking like I’m drunk. Slurring. Stammering. Misplacing words, thoughts, ideas – in the middle of conversations. The dizziness, forgetting what I’m doing. Most of the time I can laugh at it. It is pretty funny. Why not laugh at something that brings a little silliness to the rest of your life?
But, I don’t like seeming unintelligent, like I’m drunk, or like I’m stoned in front of new people. I guess I struggle with this part of fibro fog the most, because I had a terrible self-esteem growing up and being called “stupid”, “idiot”, “retard”, and “worthless” were common occurrences in my life. I never realized that I was truly intelligent and had good thoughts and opinions until into my 30’s.
Wanting to find a little solace, kind of like when I needed to label what was wrong with me with this fibro thing – knowing it wasn’t all in my head, I wanted to get some answers. Knowing the whats, whys, and hows, help me to feel validated and help me to understand things better, even if I don’t know how to fix it. So – in my pursuit of how and why, I looked up about what exactly the deal is with this fibro fog. Here’s what I found.
What is Fibro Fog?
I describe it as wonkiness. Feeling like things are just off kilter and you can’t get it back to right. Feeling like you’re in a dream-like-state, or moving in slow motion. Unable to think or concentrate clearly, especially when there are other distractions such as noise, talking – sometimes even smells, or sights. Remembering specific things is sporadic and sometimes not correct. And multi-tasking to be efficient? Psshht… forget it! The medical gurus mumbo jumbo describes it as…
Otherwise known as cognitive dysfunction or brain fog, fibro fog is a term used to describe the general confusion and cloudy-mindedness that comes along with the condition. This is a very common symptom amongst fibro suffers and can be especially disconcerting for those who had previously experienced life with a very clear mind. The foggy feeling within the mind is enough to cause anxiety on it’s own, which only increases associated difficulties. This can become an uncomfortable and vicious cycle, so working on lessening the occurrence of flare ups is important for a Fibromyalgia sufferer’s mental and emotional well-being. (1)
Okay, that’s the what. Now on to the why.
Why do I get fibro Fog?
According to the research that has been done on this newly diagnosed phenomenon, there are possibly several contributing factors to the cognitive abnormalities that commonly take place in fibro sufferers.
- Mind clouding medications
- inability to reach a restful sleep
- lack of natural hormones and chemicals
- the depression that often comes with or is caused by FMS
- and decreased blood flow
Research has proven that those with Fibromyalgia very commonly suffer from cognitive dysfunction and that sufferers annually lose more than three times as much “gray matter” brain tissue than healthy, age-matched controls. And some of that loss occurs in areas of the brain that are involved in memory and concentration, says Patrick Wood, MD, a senior medical adviser to the NFA and one of the coauthors of the 2007 study. (2)
When fibro fog is acting up, you know it, especially if you were a clear minded, fast thinking, easily understanding, multi-tasking individual before you got Fibromyalgia. You’ll be in an in-depth conversation that you’re entirely interested in, and suddenly completely forget what the topic was, much less what you were in the middle of saying. This can be frustrating for both you and those you’re involved in conversation with. Some other examples would be often forgetting what you were saying, thinking or needed to do, an inability to come up with the proper words to describe feelings or a situation (etc), difficulty writing, stuttering and difficulty understanding and retaining information. Bouts of dyslexia or word omission may also occur. These symptoms may also be accompanied by extreme sleepiness and fatigue. And also may include tingling in your head, scalp, neck or all three.
The frustration that comes along with this symptom can be depressing and cause irritability, anxiety, and embarrassment. It’s probably safe to say that most everyone with Fibromyalgia has heard “Spit it out!” or “why didn’t you just say that” from others, on a decently consistent basis when you have to describe with small words, gestures, or other thoughts a simple thing to keep you on track.
Okay. Good… The what and why are covered. How can I deal with it and make it less annoying to me and others?
How can I help to keep my clarity and focus for as long as possible?
Although, like fibromyalgia – nothing has been found to make it go away, there are somethings that the researchers that have taken the fog part of this syndrome seriously, have suggested.
- Breaks and rest stops – Overactivity often causes fibromyalgia brain fog. Patients state that when brain fog sets in, they need a break. Learn to recognize your limits and practice pre-emptive rest periods to avoid brain fog before it strikes.
- Routine and pre-planning – Doing the same things in the same way every day reduces brain fog memory problems in most patients. Always put your items in the same place so you do not lose them. If your fog is worse in the morning, set things up the night before for the next day.
- Productive times of day – Patients with brain fog find that certain times of the day are more productive. Perform the most difficult mental tasks during times when your mind is clear and sharp. Studies show that late morning to early evening are the best times for most patients, because once their bodies tire, the brain fog gets worse.
- Lists and reminders – Written to-do lists are essential for fibromyalgia brain fog sufferers. Use sticky notes or other reminders to prompt your memory. Keep needed items in prominent places or associate them with certain items. Something as simple as using eyeglass holders around your neck makes life less stressful.
- Single tasking – Avoid multi-tasking by setting out tasks in order and performing one at a time. Teach your family members not to disturb you when you are busy with a task, like cooking dinner or driving. When interrupted, say things like “I’m doing this now, but I can help you when I am done.”
- Physical activity – When brain fog sets in, sometimes getting up from your seat and moving helps stimulate your mind. Patients report that performing deep breathing exercises often clears brain fog. Go for a walk, jog in place or do jumping jacks to increase blood flow and oxygen into your brain. (3)
- Follow a diet rich in foods for brain health –
- Berries – especially blueberries, are rich in antioxidants which protect your brain cells from oxidation and free radical damage . This means antioxidants may slow down brain aging and prevent disease, while promoting the growth of healthy brain cells.
- Brightly colored fruits and vegetables – Yellow, orange, and dark green vegetables are rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in your body. Dark leafy green vegetables and citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C. Both vitamins are linked to improving your memory and reasoning powers and keeping your arteries functioning properly.
- Nuts – especially walnuts, are rich in essential fatty acids that help to help boost memory and your ability to learn new things!
- Vitamins and minerals – such as the vitamin E found in flaxseed and real, minimally processed chocolate help to keep your brain healthy and release dopamine, to enhance cognition and mood. Foods rich in other vitamins such as these, listed below, also help to keep your brain working optimally.
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Folic Acid
- B Vitamins
- Magnesium (4)